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"Cleo Manago Speaks On "Crips & Bloods" Documentary"

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Manago Cites: "Black Men Killing Each Other was Safer than Confronting Their Enemy"

Los Angeles, CA - The voice of social architect, activist and visionary, Cleo Manago is certainly recognized as a distinctive one. His articulated opinions have been documented in media nationally and internationally. Brazen, outspoken and unshaken, Manago gets his point across in no uncertain terms. HIs vision of truth is a beacon amid illusionary constructs and preconceived agendas.

Upon the viewing of the recent release of "Crips & Bloods: Made in America" produced by Cash Warren and Los Angeles NBA star Baron Davis, Manago felt compelled to put pen to paper. His thoughts, as usual, transcend the norm and provoke dialogue.


"Crips & Bloods: Made in America" : Black Men Killing Each Other was Safer than Confronting Their Enemy

by Cleo Manago


Throughout the long history of non-fiction, documentary film making, few examples have surfaced that deeply illuminate the struggle among Black males in America, since slavery, to retrieve some semblance of manhood and respect. A new documentary called 'Crips & Bloods: Made in America' makes a successful attempt at contextualizing a disturbing, west coast version of this nation-wide, intergenerational, Black male struggle.

Produced by Cash Warren and Los Angeles NBA star Baron Davis,
"Crips & Bloods" features the voices and violent histories of former and current members of gangs, and the relevant history of Black (and White) Los Angeles. It also features mothers and other loved ones left in the wake of the often deadly consequences of a self-hate directed war between dejected Black males, lost in a patriarchal (and racist) reality, in a country and [Black] community they believe does not see them as human or as men.

Through interviews, vintage footage and documented facts, the 40 year genesis of how legions of Black males in Los Angeles wound up going from baby-boys on their mother's laps to the confines of a gang, a prison, or a cemetery is uncovered. Stacy Peralta, the film's director, sharply depicts how, historically, regardless of economic status, Black Angelenos faced brutal and cruel forms of racism which affected where they could live, how long many did live and the quality of their lives.

With pictorial examples, actual news coverage and a gripping narrative "Crips & Bloods" addresses how so-called gangs began as black youth who were not allowed to be in the [White] boy scouts, or to safely leave their communities for leisure. Exposed is that up until very recently, the where abouts of Black people in South Los Angeles were patrolled by legally sanctioned and often deadly White police brutality. It becomes clear that these are the seeds of how the frustrations of violently oppressed Black youth festered into a mutually implicit impulse to turn on each other, preconditioned to believe that the actual source of their pain was not practical or safe to directly confront.

Powerfully (and hopefully Blacks will learn from this), "Crips & Bloods" also illustrates how cooperative with each other, responsible, industrious and even prosperous a number of Blacks were before the systemic disruption of the community. Upon close examination, it becomes apparent how the power of ingrained notions had by many Blacks - that their still not being White - ate at the integrity of simply enjoying, valuing and protecting being an independent, successful [Black] community.

Unlike the so-called blacks-ploitation films of the 70's and 80's, e.g. "The Mack," "Superfly" and "Shaft," or the more recent gangsta or thug culture that romanticizes Black male disorientation, contrived bravado and displaced rage, "Crips & Bloods" actually explains the origins of how this madness came to be. The film actually acknowledges how racist, deadly and corrupt law enforcement, along with the murder or compromise of iconic Black men like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton and Huey Newton of the Black Panthers trickled down into a legacy of terror and confusion among Black males. In addition, the typically unspoken psychological consequences of this period manifesting as serial fatherlessness, criminalization, joblessness, drug abuse and repressed Black male grief is acknowledged in "Crips & Bloods."

Witnessing "Crips & Bloods: Made in America" for this writer was not just a visual field trip, but a revisiting of where I was raised (Watts and Compton) and what I personally observed growing up. This revolutionary documentary may act as a buffer or a wakeup call to finally put into context what so many Black males silently contend with. It may even help to inform health educators, law enforcement and mental health systems to recognize what they must know toward applying solutions to health disparities disproportionately had by Black males. These would include: HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, incarceration, homicide, depression and suicide.

While the election of Barack Obama, America's first president on record to have a Black father, who also brought the country its first Black First Lady, is symbolically powerful, a film like "Crips & Bloods: Made in America" may help us to acknowledge and resolve realities that still need attending too.

Next steps or a next film could explicitly engage solutions to what "Crips & Bloods: Made in America" explores. Maybe the film will spark local discussion on funding and building programs to help produce more healthy Black males. This would be fundamental to developing a healthier Black community, and healthier Black fathers, husbands, sons and the productive partners of Black people.

To learn more about the film, visit the "Crips & Bloods: Made in America" companion website, http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/cripsandbloods/ , which features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmakers and links and resources pertaining to the film's subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.

Cleo Manago is a behavioral health specialist and cultural expert, journalist and founder/CEO of AmASSI Wellness and Cultural Centers . Email him at cleomanago@gmail.com.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Cleo Manago is available for inteview. Contact jazzmynepr@gmail.com.

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